Tag Archives: swimming

One of those weeks

It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been one of “those” weeks…

We had our first dusting of snow on Monday.  Winter is definitely on its way.  This means frosty mornings, traffic chaos and general disruption.  Great!

Snow Deer

Fortunately the snow wasn’t quite as deep as this!

The cold is one thing my medication doesn’t help with.  Whether it’s the blood thinners, my weight loss or something else, I feel the cold much more than I used to.  Gone are the days of me being a one-man, furnace with  unlimited internal heating.  Reluctantly, I have had to invest in extra layers to keep me warm.  Perhaps I’ll even be “ne’er casting a clout” come next May!

Tuesday was my birthday.  Another year older.  I’m grateful for the gifts and cards, and it was nice to be the centre of attention for a day (at home at least!).  I guess it’s natural to have some sort of emotional reaction to my first post-Heart Attack Birthday… a reminder that I’m well and truly in the “lucky to be alive” club!  To be honest, I’ve just found myself feeling a bit colder and older.

Birthday

To compound matters, it feels like I’ve hardly done any exercise recently.  I think this is largely because the grind of the week has made the days seem longer.  I was therefore looking forward to my swimming lesson on Wednesday evening.

As I arrived at the pool it looked like there was a gala on and my plans would be ruined (“Please, not those pesky Brownies again!!!”).  There were cars everywhere.  Just my luck!  Fortunately the pool was just busy, “Zigzag down the pool to find some space” busy as I had a quick swim to warm up (in more ways than one!) in advance of my lesson.

Although my swimming has improved, and the distance I’m covering in each session is gradually increasing, I’m still finding it exhausting.  I guess this is positive as I want it to be good exercise, but I’m not progressing as I hoped I would.  Discussions during my lesson focussed mostly on this… and we concluded that I’m a “sinker”.  I have not been naturally blessed with buoyancy.  As a result, I’m generally too tense, and a lot of my swimming effort is spent preventing myself from sinking (or drowning, whichever way you want to look at it!).  I am therefore inefficient, using much more energy and “puff” than I should need to.

Swimming Unbderwater

My natural swimming position!

Short of getting floats installed, the only way I can see of addressing this issue is through patience and practice.  So, more of the same.  Onwards and upwards (to the surface of the pool at least)!

Only 30 days until the days start getting longer!  🙂

Earning my 100m badge

Our dining table was oval… a rectangular table tennis table was a dream!

As a child I did lots of sport.  When I was young we tended to organise our own “events”.  We’d play football into the dark winter evenings, play cricket through the long summer holidays, compete in “do it yourself” athletics challenges, play table tennis on the dining room table and participate in epic snooker matches on our child-sized tables, and participate in any other sport we had the chance to.

As I got older, I did more and more organised sport providing structured competition, regular training and coaching.  In summary, Sport was an important part of my life.

One sport I never did competitively was swimming.  After having been taught to swim by my parents, it was strictly a “fun” activity.  While my evenings and weekends were fairly busy, my morning activities were limited to getting up, eating breakfast and getting myself to school.  For me, there was no pre-school training that swimming seems to require.  Swimming “competitions” were limited to low key school galas and attempts to gain badges and / or certificates to record my achievements.

Having never really got into it as a child, swimming has never been a feature of any previous attempts to get fit as an adult.  It always seemed like too much work.  An inefficient, and potentially embarrassing, way of getting exercise that I could get much more easily on dry land.  As a result I have never swum any significant distances.

Turning isn’t a strong point for me either! It all tends to be a bit hit or miss!

Things have changed a little in recent weeks as I’ve added swimming to my regular exercise regime.  I recognise that I’m not getting any younger, and now seems like a good time to overcome my prejudices and inadequacies (in relation to swimming at least!) and learn to swim properly.

Having decided to take on Freestyle first, my initial goal was to learn how to breathe properly…

My first few weeks were spent doing single 25m lengths, in sets of one.  I tended to reach the end of each length short of breathe and needing a rest.  Stepping up to doing sets of 50m was a big deal.  Again, the second (and final) length always seemed to be more difficult than it should.

For some reason moving beyond 50m proved to be a big psychological barrier for me.  Perhaps it was because I’ve never swum 100m without stopping before (at least as far as I can remember).  The chances of successfully turning after the second length seemed slim.  Completing a further two lengths seemed almost a physical impossibility.

untitled (54)So, my successful attempt to get my 100m badge on Friday morning resulted in a fair amount of satisfaction!  It wasn’t easy, but I’m hoping it will mark the beginning of a new phase of my swimming career.

I’m not looking to compete competitively, but it would be fantastic if I could build up to being able to swim for an hour without stopping.

Next goal, 200m!

An “and” day

Recently I’ve been trying to be more of an “and” person rather than an “or” person…

We spend a lot of time and energy making difficult decisions, forcing ourselves to choose between different options, working around the constraints.  Often we forget that there may be an option that allows us to do both…  “and” rather than “or”… all we need is to be positive and think a bit differently.

Working on the principle of “and”, today was my first double exercise day…

Monday’s have become my designated rest day – I’m always tired after the weekend.  It takes me a day to properly get back into the swing of a working week.  So, I don’t do any exercise on a Monday.  Hopefully this allows my body to properly recover and set me up for the rest of the week.

A cold, dark and very frosty start to the day!

Having had a day off, I set my alarm early this morning so I could swim before work.  I left the house to be greeted by a heavy frost, the first of the winter.  As well as double exercise, it turned out to be a double scrape day – I had to scrape the windshield before I could head to the pool, and again after my swim before I could head off to work.  Great!

Louise (my wife) was also faced with a frozen car as she set off to take the girls to school.  I have agreed to clear the garage to create space for her to get the car in, making the school run as straightforward as possible.  Unfortunately the arrival of winter has beaten me to the punch.  I now need to pull my finger out and clear space for the car… space that is currently occupied by my bike and Turbo Trainer.

It did turn into a beautiful day… if a little chilly!

Using the principle of “and”, this does not mean that I will lose the use of my bike.  I just need to find the next best place to locate it.  Fortunately, there are a couple of options inside the house.  The main considerations will be (1) to keep it out of the way and (2) to minimise the chances of me over-heating when riding.  There’s the minor consideration of sweat and oil pollution too, but I’m hoping a couple of towels and some carpet offcuts will do the trick there!

In the immediate term the bike will stay where it is.  Shifting the kit around can be something to look forward to doing at the weekend.  So, I successfully completed my ride, and my double exercise day – a ride and a swim.

Pushing the boundaries

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a  beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”
Barbara Sher

Difficult as it has been, since my Heart Attack I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am not immortal, and I’m far from super human.  I have become much more aware of my limitations and more willing to admit to myself and others that there are some things I can’t do (or can’t do yet).  As a result, I have started to be more open to, and take enjoyment from, trying new things.

Some might view this as me enjoying the comedy factor that being a beginner often provides.  Perhaps there’s a degree of truth in this, but I think there are two other factors that are more important:

  1. Doing new things adds variety and interest to my life.  As I tend to become a little obsessive about things, why not become obsessive about doing new things, and expanding my horizons, rather than focusing on only one activity and narrowing my focus?
  2. I’m really looking forward to developing my capabilities, progressing to an “intermediate” level, and exploring the opportunities this might bring.

So, as the days shorten and the winter weather starts to kick in, I’ve looked to try different types of exercise that are suitable the dark, cold days.  This has required me to dig deep, to admit I’m a beginner to a bunch of strangers, and to begin…

I have already added swimming to my fitness regime, and I’ve been  practicing my Free-style breathing for a few weeks, but I am still very much a beginner.  The combination of  my “agricultural” technique, my general fitness level and coming to terms with not being able to breathe when I want to, means I need to briefly rest after each 25 metre length.

untitled (51)Friday saw me setting my alarm extra-early and heading to the local swimming pool for a pre-work swim.  This meant swimming in a lane for the first time… with other people.  Four other people, in fact.

I was comfortable with the principle of swimming in a lane, but uncomfortable with the finer details;  Was there some etiquette that cannot be communicated via the arrows on a small, white board?  Was it OK to rest?  (I’d be in real trouble if it wasn’t).  I guess the nightmare scenario would have been if I had come into contact with another swimmer!!!  Surely “touching” is not acceptable, particularly given the general lack of clothing.

As it turned out, I needn’t have been worried.  Everything was very civilised.  We all pretended each other didn’t exist, of course, but the swim went off without incident.  In all, I managed 800m in total, 32 times 25m lengths.  Of course, I’ll try to build my stamina over time.  I might even try for my 50m badge in my next visit to the pool!

***

My regular cycling companion has been under the weather this week, so rather than setting out for our weekly Saturday Cycle, I headed to our local gym for an RPM Class.  Louise (my Wife) has been encouraging me to go to an RPM class pretty much since I started cycling.  Today was my first.

I have to admit, I spent most of the class wondering whether Louise is aware of what I have been through, and what rehabilitation from a Heart Attack entails!  I found the session “intense”.

I hit my maximum Heart Rate after about 5 minutes, and struggled to bring it down  throughout… and I sweated… profusely!!!  And that was without standing up to cycle.  By the end of the session, the pool of sweat beneath my station was substantial.  There was little evidence of similar levels of effort from other participants despite the fact that they all worked a lot harder than I could!

There were a number of contributory factors to me finding the session tough.  Not least that, although I’m getting fitter, I still have a way to go.  The fact that I didn’t know the routine meant that I wasn’t able to effectively moderate my effort to increase / decrease on demand (I hit “Maximum” about three notches on the dial too early!).  Apparently this will all come with practice.

My big take-away for the next session is that I should take a towel with me!!!

The “E”s

At Cardiac Rehabilitation, we were taught that many of the key factors that impact the workload on a Heart with an “E”… Exercise, Environment, Emotion, Eating… (I’m sure there were others, but I can’t remember them… please feel free to chip in!).

Many of the “E”s are impacted by travel to foreign lands… strange place, unusual climate, different food, etc.  As a result, I think going on a family holiday is a big step in the Cardiac Rehab journey.

A holiday obviously offers an opportunity for some Rest and Relaxation, away from the hassle of day to day life at home / work.  For me, it provides a chance to diversify my exercise routine and build on the base I’ve laid down.  However, I think it offers something more important.  I think it offers the opportunity to embed the change that we’ve been through over the past few months.  I say “we”, this definitely applies for me, but in a small way I think it’ll apply for Louise and the girls too.

The whole, “living with Heart Disease” thing was somewhat sprung on us.  We didn’t have any time to prepare.  One day we were “normal”, the next we were not.  In some way, leaving home as a “Survivor”, being away for a couple of weeks, and then returning a “Survivor” makes it more official, normal.  A little bit like moving house… you need a break of routine to really make it feel like home.

The Magic Kingdom… not sure my Heart could have taken the fireworks and the emotion of the whole thing!

Our holiday plans over the summer were severely impacted by my Heart Attack.  The plan had been to visit Florida and enjoy some of the theme parks we have all heard so much about… you could call it a “once in a lifetime” trip… but when you’ve got growing children, they all are aren’t they!

We decided that a long haul flight, the heat and humidity, the thrills and spills of rollercoasters, driving in a strange place, and the good old American cuisine probably wouldn’t be the best recuperation-aid five weeks after my Heart Attack.  So we spent the summer at home, making the best of what Scotland has to offer.

As it turned out, it had quite a lot to offer.  We enjoyed one of the best summers for many years, I certainly can’t remember a better one since I’ve been living in Sunny Scotland (and I’ve been there for over 17 year).

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The main pool and hotel complex. Always strangely deserted.

To compensate, we decided to book a “special” trip over the October School Holiday (Now!).  The girls get two weeks off, so it’s enough time to get away… and really get away!  We are in Rhodes enjoying a healthy holiday of sun, relaxation and exercise (in that order).

The “E”s have played quite a major factor so far:

The Environment is much warmer than back at home.  The average temperature so far has been in the high 20 degree Celsius range.  It’s felt hot!  Perfect for lazing around and doing nothing very much!

The Environment impacts everything.  It takes time for your body to acclimatise.  Quite how and when it’ll make a noticeable difference is unknown, until it does!  So, in the short term at least, this provides a need for a certain level of caution.

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The lounging pool. Beautiful, but treacherously chilly!

We have access to several Outdoor Pools and the Mediterranean Sea (I’m sure it used to be an Ocean when I was growing up!).  Both can best be described “refreshing”.  Again, perfect for a cool down if you’ve been lazing around in the sun, but they’re a little too bracing for my liking.  I’ve never particularly enjoyed swimming in cold water, but I suspect a fast immersion in any of these could be the last thing I do!  Definitely to be avoided!

There are guided Mountain Bike rides twice a day.  Definitely for me!  The temperature plays a key factors in these too, as well as the terrain over which we ride (I know this doesn’t start with an “E”!).  Being on the competitive end of competitive, the key thing for me is to ride at my own pace, to not worry about what everyone else is doing, and to listen to my body (and my heart rate monitor!).  My body has definitely reacted differently.  I guess I have to learn my limits again given the new conditions.

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Dad’s pool… before the kids have woken up at least!

Given I can’t swim in the outside pools, the Indoor Pool has become “Dad’s Pool”.  Unfortunately there are some other guests that might also lay claim to it, so I have to pick my times carefully!  It’s not big, probably 10m in length, but it’s enough for me to practice my breathing. If it really were mine I’d keep the temperature a few degrees cooler, and get some fresh air circulating in the room.  It is as close to a sauna as I’m willing to get right now!  Hopefully it’ll serve its purpose.

We’re in a great place to chill out, relax and enjoy a break.  There is a lot to do.  I just need to make sure I don’t overdo it!

Man versus Brownie

You may be disappointed to hear that this isn’t an epic tale of one man’s battle to resist the temptation of a tasty chocolate treat; an exhibition of self-discipline and restraint to resist the lure of the sweet, warm cake, deliciously gooey in the middle with just a hint of nuttiness… It’s not that exciting I’m afraid.  No, this evening I had my first swimming lesson.

Tasty… but not on the menu today.

I didn’t really know what to expect.  Having signed up several weeks ago, all had gone quiet.  I assumed I was on a list, participating in a local authority lottery… my number would probably never come up!  Well, last week it did.  I received an SMS message.  8 pm on Wednesday.  My exercise horizons were about to be broadened.

Bovril… or Chicken Soup?

I learned to swim as a child.  We used to have regular family trips to the (not so) local pool, splash around for a while before getting changed and having a cup of Bovril and a Bag of Crisps from the vending machine.

I have been able to look after myself in and around water for as long as I can remember, but I would never describe myself as a swimmer.  Exercise in my youth was almost entirely gained on solid ground.

More recent attempts to swim for fitness have consisted of rather inefficient thrashing around with the occasional, slightly panic-stricken gasping for breath.  So, I decided that if I am to include swimming in my new exercise regime, I should do it properly and have some lessons.  Hopefully this will get me to the point where I have the technique and confidence to make it a beneficial, and perhaps even enjoyable, pursuit.

Cute… but best avoided!

So this evening I arrived at the local pool feeling a little self-conscious and a little more nervous.  These feelings were exacerbated by the pack of Brownies, lining up two by two,  preparing to enter the pool.  So much for my quiet, low key introduction back to water!

It was the first time I’m been in a pool since my Heart Attack, so even submerging myself for the first time was slightly nerve-racking.  I had been warned to watch out for pressure changes… I might feel “strange”.  Fortunately I felt fine, I was able to crack on with the “swimming” unencumbered.

All I had to do was steal the occasional breath and avoid bobbing Brownies (both easier said than done!).  Heaven only knows what badge they were practicing for, but it all seemed rather chaotic.  Avoiding them was more of a feature of the evening than I could have ever anticipated.  As far as I’m aware, we all came away unscathed, but definitely more by luck than by judgement!  I’d like to say that Man won… but let’s call it an honourable draw.

No Bovril or Crisps for me this evening.  Just a nice cup of decaf tea.  How times change!